By on August 13, 2013

Joshua writes:

I am coming out of the throes of a mid-life crisis that caused me to replace a workable Mazda 5 several years ago with a sleek-looking Honda Civic coupe. Now that my boys are getting older, rear space room in the Honda is starting to become an issue, so I am looking to trade off the Honda for something with lots of rear seat space for hauling around the family, friends and clients.

After doing research, the two most viable candidates seem to be a 2012 Chevy Malibu LTZ with a V6 or a 2011 Crown Vic. Both would be about the same cost — $14 to 15k — and both would have about the same mileage — 35k. The last gen Malibu seems to be the only mid-sized sedan in my price range that actually has rear seat leg room sufficient for a 6 foot tall adult. It has more room than the last gen Impala, which I had originally looked at, but ruled out once I sat in the back of one with my knees jammed into seat back.

I have always wanted a Crown Vic or Mercury Grand Marquis, however, and now my living situation has changed such that I have a garage big enough to fit one. I also realize this will be my last chance to buy a low mileage Panther. So I am unsure of which car is the right fit.

Besides the looks, one of the reasons I bought the Honda was for the gas mileage. I commute 50 miles roundtrip to work each day in Southern California, so the 30 mpg it gets during that commute has been helpful. I am also used to the size of the Honda when maneuvering into parking spots and changing lanes on the freeway.

Given this, I have a feeling that the smaller Malibu might be less of shock to get used to when driving. I presume that mileage would be a non-issue, i.e., both the Crown Vic and Malibu will obviously get worse mileage than the Honda, but the difference between the Crown Vic and the Malibu with the V6 will be negligible, maybe a couple miles per gallon difference, and not enough to factor into the decision.

So, any thoughts that might help me out on my decision? Differences in reliability, etc.? Will I think I’m driving a big lumbering truck if i choose the Crown Vic? I haven’t driven one in 15 years, and that was my grandmother’s I would run errands in, so I don’t have a solid recollection of what it would be like as a daily driver. Thanks for your help on this one.

Sajeev answers:

Before we bore all the Panther Haters on this blog, let’s consider this: the Crown Vic’s rear leg room isn’t great, much less class leading.  But 39.6 inches is greater than 37.6 inches. However, neither of your choices is ideal.  Perhaps you should consider the Toyota Camry? It has a couple inches more, ya know.

Did I really just recommend a Camry over Panther Love?  Shut ‘yo mouth!

So anyway, the Crown Vic is the obvious choice. Just go drive one.  You like? Then you won’t regret.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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109 Comments on “Piston Slap: Mali-blewin’ over Tight Panther Legroom?...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    That’s ” Shet yo mouf ” Sajeev =8-) .

    Now , on with the Panther love .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    You can put me in lockup with her.

    Jeez, I love brunettes.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    My Buick Encore AWD sees 36-37 mpg on the 58 mile commute and has more than enough space in the back seat with my 5’10″ frame already have the front seat adjusted. It has more than enough height that you could wear a helmut and never touch the ceiling. All the while still have 18 cubic feet with the rear seat up.

    It handles like car that it is based on in the hills of southeastern Pennsylvania that the passengers didn’t more high speed curves. Braking is phenomenal with great feedback as is the steering making adjusts to your line an ease. This is avalible at a GM dealership in Freemont, CA, low $20′s or $21 in Illinois.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      What a non-sequitur.

      Besides handling like a cheap sub-compact, you forgot to mention that the Encore is just about the most unfortunate looking vehicle extant.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Wait! I thought Norm had the 40 mpg Saab 9-5 wagon? What happened?

      • 0 avatar
        SomeGuy

        And a junky Panther looks better?

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Buick%20Encore&defid=7008259

        C&D got 24 mpg w/ that slow sled:
        http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2013-buick-encore-fwd-awd-test-review

        Same guy on that board claiming 40mpg w/ 100 miles on the odometer!

        ” just picked up a ’13 AWD version for $24,000 and am seeing right under 40 mpg while cruising on the highway at 60 mpg. With only 100 miles on the odometer it should loosen up a bit during break-in. There is no gasoline, awd vehicle sold that see consistently in the 30 mpg range, regardless of drivetrain, than the Encore”

        Now that’s a real testimonial. 100 miles and the car gets 40 mpg! That means 60 mpg with the “breakin”. And those amateurs at C&D got 24mpg.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          “Same guy on that board claiming 40mpg”… and his name is Norm, do you think?… Nah, couldn’t be ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          Motorweek beat EPA in an Encore AWD!

          http://www.motorweek.org/reviews/road_tests/2013_buick_encore

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            31.1 mpg… Ok, but it’s not 40 mpg

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            USAToday got 19.5 mpg w/ front drive only Encore:

            http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/healey/2013/01/19/test-drive-buick-encore/1566430/

            CR got 23 in extended testing, amazing given the mediocre performance:
            http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/buick/encore/road-test.htm

            That’s really pathetic.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Worst tank I got was right around 30 mpg side roads, two up + dogs, and luggage with AC on in hilly PA. Not my usual terrian where I spend most of my time at higher speeds on the highway.

            Once she is broken in I don’t for forsee much below 40 mpg on a tankful going to work. I’ll post up results.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      That’s impressive, seeing as how even the optimistic EPA mileage numbers for the Encore say 30mpg for the AWD.

      I can believe Motorweek’s 31mpg, below.

      I don’t believe 36mpg unless you commute at 45 mph in no traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      Huh?

      The Buick Encore starts at around $25k after destination, if I’m not mistaken, and that’s assuming you can find an example not loaded with extras. That’s nearly double what the OP is looking to spend, and as others have said, the Encore just looks kind’ve funny, even if I normally love Buick’s recent styling.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    If you want a boring barge with a big back seat, the Toyota Avalon is the pick of the litter. I’ve had everything in this class as a rental, multiple times. The Previous gen Avalon had enough space for a couple of 6’6 friends to lounge in the back seat. And it is bound to be the most reliable and slowest depreciating car in the class. Giant Camry for the win!

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I had a 2012 Malibu LTZ V6 as a rental awhile back and that had to be the most under rated car of 2012. Fast, smooth, comfortable and handled remarkable well. After four days with it I came away with one thought, if I were in the market for cheap sedan, this would be it

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      First, a disclaimer. I’ve never ridden in a Panther/Ford, either trooper interceptor version or taxi that did not have the space-robbing divider separating front and back seats, causing me to think that for so large a car outside, it’s absolutely no bargain inside. I have been in ‘black car’ livery late model Town Car ‘L’s commuting from Trudeau to centre-ville, and if I had to ride in the back seat always, Town Cars are really fine – though they’re a little more money than a same year Ford/Mercury, and economy is at the low end of the scale.

      The 2012 Malibu rental I had recently was fine from a build standpoint, on par with Camrys, Accords, and Outbacks I’ve also driven in the last year.

      If you don’t care what your neighbors or your kids friends think, and you like the convenience of cars automatically pulling out of your lane because they think they see a law enforcement officer car in the mirror, and you know your kids have enough room in the back seat, then the Crown Vic is one answer. If you still don’t care what people think, and you still value fuel economy and tons of rear seat legroom(for two people), a Prius hits both marks a little better.

      If what other people think matters even just a little, then I would pick
      the Malibu, given the choices you have indicated.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        Honestly I’ve never understood the infatuation for the Panthers. I mean I understand what the infatuation is, but it don’t get it. We had a Crown Vic as a rental car last year down in North Carolina. It was comfortable on the highway, but not head and shoulders above any other cars out there. It was somewhat roomy, but the Passat my wife now drives is much, much roomier, particularly in the legroom department.

        Plus my wife HATED it. I cannot emphasize that enough, because she is otherwise as low maintenance and not concerned with appearances as you could hope for. But she hated every second in that car. She felt like it was an old person’s car and was just not comfortable being seen in it. She didn’t care about BOF or that it was the last of a breed or any of that other silliness that a certain segment of the enthusiast crowd loves about Panthers.

        I guess some people just like be anachronistic for anachronism’s sake.

    • 0 avatar
      zaxxon25

      I have a 2008 Malibu LTZ 6 cylinder with 45K … no real problems so far. While the back seat room is tighter compared to the Accord or Camry I still think it’s very adequate. Both a good friend and my f-i-l are in the 6’2″ range and have spent seat time back there with no complaints. Comparing the depreciation hit on the Malibu to its competition definitely makes it the king of affordability in this used car class, even in LTZ trim. If you’re willing to make the fuel mileage/horsepower trade for the 6cyl (like I was) then I think it’s a fantastic choice for the price.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    No Panther-love from this guy.

    Every time I get in a Panther taxi, I’m amazed just how limited the rear room really is for a car its size. Space efficient it ain’t.

    I inherited a 2010 Malibu V-6, and daily drove it for about a year. The gas mileage was surprisingly good, I thought. I averaged about 24-25 mpg in my daily commuting, and I drove it HARD, using all of the V-6′s power on a regular basis. No way a Panther is every going to deliver that sort of mileage.

    The downsides of the Malibu are the short-ish greenhouse and thick A-pillars, which limit visibility. Still it’s a pretty nice car overall.

  • avatar
    heoliverjr

    As a 6’2″ last gen Malibu owner I would like to mention that I avoid sitting in my own back seat like the plague! Unless you are behind a short person that can move the front seat up a good bit the backseat is tight for the 6 foot set. On mileage I get 25 mpg with the four cylinder/four speed auto combo so with a V6 your definitely going to take a step down from 30 mpg. But it does handle well like someone else said, I enjoy driving it and you get used to the A pillar…but it is huge like someone else said.

    Last few notes on space. Its also pretty narrow for a mid-size car which might not be a big deal coming from a Civic. When I’m driving folk around 5 feet can sit behind me comfortably, I once set behind someone 6 feet in a rental Malibu and it was horrible so if you drive around people your height the Malibu might not be the right car.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My question would be, who is going to be sitting in the back? If it’s just a couple young kids, and you don’t plan on keeping the car for a decade, then your boys shouldn’t need acres of legroom. Save that for the next car.
    Why not go back to the Mazda5? Seems like that would tick all of your boxes except for being very powerful, but the MPG should help make up for that.
    I have a feeling we will have low mile Panthers for a couple decades to come. As the current owners, who keep them locked away as they no longer drive much, start to pass away they will hit the market.

    • 0 avatar
      rehposolihp

      I was wondering if I was the only person who got the impression the rear leg room was for his children.

      Although – depending on how young they are sometimes its a fun game to play “kick daddy’s chair” and maybe the extra couple inches will pay off?

  • avatar
    dtremit

    If you’re willing to go a little older, the 2008-2009 Taurus is pretty generous in the back. They ruined that in 2010 with the restyle.

    • 0 avatar
      heoliverjr

      I agree whole heartedly with dtremit, the 2008-2009 Taurus are roomy, and since they bombed pretty badly you can get a lot of features for a good price. That is the car I plan on getting as a 2nd car when needed. If I could have found one nearby with low mileage I’d be driving it instead of my Malibu.

      • 0 avatar
        SlowMyke

        That is exactly why I’m driving an 08 Taurus. Only options I don’t have on it are sync, sun roof and awd. I picked it up 2 years ago for $17k with 20k miles. Grandma mobile ftw.

        It’s a fantastic road trip car. I get mid to high 20′s on my extended trips which always include mountain diving. City driving will drag you down to 20 if you have a heavy foot though.

        As for the rear seat room, I’m 6’3 and can comfortably sit behind a seat that is posted back as far as it can, meaning as long as your not 6’7 you’ll never have to worry about hitting your knees.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I have a saved AutoTrader search for 2008-2009 Taurus/Sable saved. Let me say +1. If you can get past the boring looks the car is HUGE inside. My dealer let me borrow one from the used car lot while the oil in my old F150 was being changed.

          It is a truly full size sedan (21 cubic foot trunk!) and leg room that puts full size SUVs to shame. With the 2008 redesign over the Five Hundred/Monteego you get a 6-speed auto (as opposed to CVT) and the 3.5V6 (instead of the 3.0.)

          The price used is cheaper than a well kept similar age/mileage Fusion although of course the Fusion was much better received.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I wish more 08-09 Sables had the nav and AWD options checked. I’ve yet to see one with both. They look much less pedestrian than the Taurus IMO. And you can get one for 10 grand.

  • avatar
    yesthatsteve

    Two growing kids and a 100-mile round trip commute in SoCal screams, “2nd Gen Prius!!!” At least to me. 38.6 inches of rear leg room and mega MPGs FTMFW

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Fifty mile commutes are hard on cars and the budget. If legroom and MPG are your main criteria, I’d suggest a used Toyota Avalon. A 2010 Avalon is likely as good a long-term bet as a 2012 Malibu. If you are going to put a car on payments, you might find that you can get as low a payment on a new 2014 as a used 2012 if you extend the payments to match the newer age of the car. The new Honda Accords may get you high 30s in the highway, cutting your fuel bill by 20%.

    The Toyota Prius has surprisingly good back seat legroom. You can get a Prius for $14,000 but it wouldn’t have low miles. On the other hand, the Prius wears especially well, partially because its engine only runs part of the time and partly because the mechanical brakes don’t do all the work. Based on your commute the Prius should save you about $600/year.

    Another alternative would be a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. The 4-cylinder Sonata gets high 30s on the highway, has good legroom, excellent safety features and a generally modern feel.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    VE Commodore FTMFW!!!!1 huge rear legroom, RWD.

    Panther love? meh

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    The answer is 2nd gen Lexus LS. There’s lots of these that are still pampered, dealer-serviced garage queens. Reliable and they’ve depreciated down to our level.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      I’ve been in a few Avalons and LSes and honestly the Avalon is nearly on par (IMO) with the LS in fit & finish, ride quality and NVH. Apart from the snob appeal of the Lexus badge, I’d be hard pressed to pick a LS over an Avalon IMO. For a land yacht, it’s a great choice!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      He’s not gonna like the mileage on the LS. Nor the miles it’ll have on the odometer.

  • avatar
    vvk

    2012+ VW Passat has limo-like leg room in the back.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Yes, but for the commute he’ll want a TDI and that quickly puts it out of his budget. Seriously, I’m looking into lap tables that attach to the back of the front seats because there is room back there to do work.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “for the commute he’ll want a TDI”

        Why? He’s not looking to get mileage similar to his Civic and the 5-pot Passat will surpass the Crown Vic and Malibu V6 in fuel economy. The 5 cylinder steps off the line pretty well and has no trouble reaching freeway speeds.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I (really my son) just bought a 2011 Sonata GLS CPO for under $16k, 10k miles. It has lots of legroom front and rear, with much better warranty than the Toyota or Chevy.

    If you really want to maximize legroom, my former Scion xB1 was the king, with 84″ combined front and rear, with plenty of headroom for the tallest occupants. Try finding that anywhere else.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      For cheap legroom, hard to beat the xB. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but my sister-in-law loves hers and she’s very picky, the fact that she married my brother not withstanding.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        xB would be TOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LOUD for most people who would consider either a Panther or a Malibu LTZ. I was just looking online at the # of Hyundai certified Sonatas for sale. There were even a few with 6 speed manuals for someone who would really like a dying breed, the manual transmission family sedan. :)

  • avatar
    jaybird124

    I think Sajeev’s alter ego, Sanjeev, needs to be the one recommending Camry’s over Panther love.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Malibu V6 over Panther, GM toward the end only offered a V6 on LTZ which is becoming rare and had all the toys. Selling your ’11 Panther later has a much more limited market then selling your ’12 Malibu later. Panther’s a car you can buy off grandpa with 100K after your done with Malibu and still get great value and long term use.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      He was talking about his last chance to own a Panther, so if BOF RWD V8 is on his “bucket list” he should buy the Panther. However if he simply wants a sedan with some back seat room and “omph”, he should get the V6 Malibu. It might be the last of a dying breed in its own way. V6 Family Sedans seem to have their days #ed.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Panther is a durable car that can be had for a song after a few years and X miles. FWD anything isn’t on the same playing field, he can always live the Panther dream later after he’s used up his FWD sedan and still get money for it from most folks. Whose giving you money for a 100K ’11 Panther in five years… I see taxi company and TTAC enthusiast in your buyer’s pool. Used 100K V6 loaded Malibu is a much easier sell.

  • avatar

    Joshua,
    I’m in the business of listening to people about their car needs and giving them quality recommendations. Based on your note to Sajeev, it’s pretty clear that you’re looking for a late model sedan and your top priorities with your next car are 1) generous rear seat legroom (although if you’re looking at comfortably seating +6 footers, I think you’ll want to be sure headroom is also ample) and 2) good fuel economy. As you’ve previously owned a Mazda and a Honda, I’d imagine solid reliability, decent interior build quality and some soul in the car are somewhere on your list.
    Based on the above, I’m going to recommend that you pass on the Panther. Rear legroom is very poor – it gets its generous volume statistics on account of its width. Also, while it can return mid 20s mpg on the highway, if you have an extended city / bumper-to-bumper commute, fuel economy will drop to the mid teens. Panthers are great cars for the people that purchased most of them as of late – taxis and police departments. But they really are behind contemporary cars in a host of areas including crash safety, handing, interior quality, space efficiency and acceleration.
    The Malibu is not a bad choice. The rear seat is actually quite roomy, up several inches in terms of legroom versus the Panther. . I’d say that depending on your driving, you’ll take an 8 – 10 mpg hit versus your current Civic, but there’s no doubt it will best the Panther by several MPGs. It’s a relatively well sorted car in terms of ride and handling, and with the 3.6 V-6, which you’ll definitely be able to get in your price range, it’s very quick. That being said, it’s a little devoid of character and isn’t particularly fun. Also, while the interior is on the better side of what GM has produced in the past decade, the fit and finish isn’t quite on par with the best of the imports. Reliability for the 2011-12s thus far looks good, but the Malibu doesn’t have a track record of exemplary long-term reliability. Of course there are solid, trouble-free examples, but statistically some imports have it beat.
    Looking past your suggestions, my top recommendation for you would be a 2010 – 2011 Honda Accord LX. A search on cars.com yield several examples in SoCal listed for $15,999 with 20 – 30k miles. You should be able to negotiate these down to your $14-15k price range. The Accord will give you plenty of rear legroom – actually as much as the Malibu and more than most mid-size sedans. More importantly, you’ll gain 1.5 – 2 inches of rear headroom and a couple inches of hip room versus the Malibu. There are real world numbers. As for fuel economy, as the Accord LX has the 2.4 4-cylinder, it will beat the Malibue by a couple of MPGs, especially in the city. The Accord is also going to give you the same faithful, reliable service that I imagine you’ve gotten from your Civic. It will do this all while offering a bit of life in its handling.

    • 0 avatar
      ShoogyBee

      I leased a 2010 Accord LX for three years. I turned it in this past May and I bought a 2010 Camry LE. I would’ve bought the Accord LX at the end of the lease *if* it had a power driver’s seat. (Wish I had leased an LX-P or an EX instead.)

      Being able to adjust the seat cushion angle is a huge bonus when it comes to driver comfort – something that the LX doesn’t offer since it has only a single lever that adjusts the seat vertically.

      The Accord will easily seat four six-footers in comfort, but the driver will be significantly more comfortable if he/she had a power driver’s seat. I’m 6’1″ so I have the driver’s seat all the way back in my Camry, but unfortunately an adult would not be able to comfortably fit behind me. That isn’t the case with the Accord. Not a huge deal for me, since I rarely carry passengers in the back seat anyway.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I realize you are attempting to work with an under $15k budget on a used car, but with the competition to be the top new car volume leader, I think you should consider upping the budget and shopping new cars… between discounts and 0% financing you can probably score a new car with a payment pretty close to a used Chevy. It would be great to get a hybrid with your current commute, but the economy of the current crop of midsized sedans is really good these days without the hybrid cost penalty. You can probably check all your boxes with a new mid-sized and get the same mileage you are used to now with your Civic. Brand new Accords with the CVT are reportedly exceeding the EPA ratings regularly, sometimes by quite a lot. I hear the same thing about the Camry and Altima too.

    I like Panthers too, but I do not see that as your vehicle of choice right now. Maybe as a 3rd car, finding some older bargain that was owned by grandpa, but not as your primary commuter. I think I would recommend the new Accord, but honestly you probably can’t go wrong with any new mid-size these days, shop the special offers and drive them all.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    +1 on the Avalon.

    I had a ’96 Clown car, C4Cd it and never looked back. Two heater cores (yes, pull the dash)and leaking a third sealed its fate.

    Edmunds puts rear legroom on the Avalon gen 2 (2000-2004, the series I have) at 40.1″. I’m 5″11,and don’t need the driver’s seat anywhere near the back of its travel. That said, any rear passengers always say they have plenty of legroom.

    I just put a set of new struts and springs on all 4 corners, and at 185K the car feels as new.

    It doesn’t leak a drop of anything anywhere, the engine is still tight (burned a pint of oil in 6000 miles) and I see no reason why it won’t make it to 300K.

    Interior quality is way above the Panther’s, seat comfort is much better too, especially for long drives.

    You can still find some lightly used examples out there with <100k on the odo. I got mine at 123K 2 years ago for way under 10 grand.

    • 0 avatar

      While an Avalon offers plenty of room, a late model is out of his price range. It doesn’t seem to me that he’s interested in something as old as a 2004 and I wouldn’t blame him. Well built or not, problems will start cropping up more often with a 10 year old car. Also, it’s not much fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      You should have changed the coolant more frequently and when the first heater core went you should have fully flushed the system and not put a made in China heater core in as a replacement.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    I look forward to the day when Panthers and W-body Imps have been gone long enough that we stop getting constant delusional excuses for their existence. (snark mute)

    ;^D

    Bunter

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    The old “Super Accord” Malibu had great leg room, but could get claustrophobic if you have two large guys in the back given it has narrower shoulder room than either the previous model Uglibu or the current model Premature Introduction. The Uglibu is great in terms of maximizing the interior room for its exterior footprint. (The PI is extremely comfortable if you plan to treat it as a personal luxury coupe; the back will hopefully be fixed in the refresh; maybe you could get a killer deal on a PI as a lame duck, though.) Uglibus are dirt cheap now and I thought they had better visibility. It always bothered me that Malibus did not have pull-down armrests in the back, but I guess you must get that in a Buick or an Epsilon Impala.

    If you want to shop slightly further afield in the Ford camp with what should have been the replacement Crown Vic, consider a Five Hundred/Taurus/Montego/Sable. I recommend against the current Taurus for a big guy as the cockpit layout again seems a little cramped/claustrophobic. The Five Hundred has gobs and gobs of room; it drives more stoutly than a W-body Impala. The Taurus/Sable (2007-2009) have a lot more power without much else given up. The Toyota-style Aisin 6-speed in the Five Hundred is really reliable. Beware the CVT. These are approaching dirt cheap in the 7-10k price range.

    For fuel economy, real world I’ve seen:

    Malibu, old 3500 V6, mixed, 26.5 mpg long-running average, 33mpg highway (over about 80k miles)
    Malibu, 2.4 I4, 28 mpg long-running average, 34-35 mpg highway (Over about 70k miles)
    Five Hundred, 3.0 V6, mixed, 23.9 mpg long-running average, 25.5 mpg highway (Over about 10k miles)
    New Malibu, rental experience, 2.5(?) I4 (I know it was not the hybrid, and it was the NA I4), 35 mpg highway

    By way of comparison:

    Lincoln Town Car (04), 19 mpg long-running average, 22 mpg highway (Over about 40k miles)

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    2004~2009 Cadillac SRX fits the price point.
    Front leg room 42.1
    Rear leg room 41.0
    V6 or V8
    RWD or AWD

    Have some fun with the handling and the styling is not your everyday econobox.
    I recommend a low mileage RWD with either the V6 or V8.(unless in snow country)
    For the V8, get a 2005 or later to avoid any head gasket issues.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    Never thought of a Honda Civic coupe as a mid life crisis car. Really living on the edge there aren’t ya…

  • avatar
    ajla

    My thoughts:

    1. An ’11 CV is almost certainly going to be an ex-rental.
    2. If I’m spending $15K on a Panther, I’m getting a Town Car or a Marauder.
    3. Don’t forget that the Lucerne and Taurus existed.
    4. The Avalon is a fine car, but you will pay a premium for it. Might get it back at resale though.
    5. The ’07+ Amanti and Azera might be a good value.
    6. Due to the buyer demographics, I wouldn’t worry about it being your “last chance” to get a low mileage Panther.
    7. Personally, if I was shopping an Epsilon I’d go for a Aura XR with the 2.4L/6A combo.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’ve heard that the Amanti is floatier than a 70s Cadillac and gets poor fuel economy. Although I’d love to slap either a Jaguar leaping cat or Mercedes Benz three pointed star on it and see how many idiots I fool.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’ve never personally driven the Amanti, but Kia took a pretty big swing at updating it in ’07. Supposedly brought it closer to the Azera.

        I have driven the Azera of that time and thought it was pretty decent.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You’d fool them til they saw the back end – yeeck. Especially on the early one. Though I do like the huge horizontal LED turn blinker.

        Fun fact: In S Korea this had a long wheelbase as well, and was called the Opirus.

  • avatar

    I actually like the 08-12 Malibus, especially with that snorty 3.6L dual-cam V6. I’ve driven both and generally like the Malibu better, but this is TTAC, and YMMobviouslyV.

  • avatar
    bugmen0t

    One thing to keep in mind is that the police divider cuts several inches from the rear legroom of any police vehicle – including the CV/Panther. So what we see in that shot is not representative of a civie CV, GM, Marauder.

    Not sure if the photo above is stock, or something from a TTAC shoot, but man, some of these comments on the lady’s looks…

    Does it occur to the Looks Critics that if that’s not a stock shot, that the woman in question may actually read the comments? Maybe she’s the wife or gf of one of the writers, or a writer herself.

    How’d you like your gf or wife to be called “pleasantly pedestrian”, or “plump and plain” by a complete stranger?

    A little decorum, guys. We can do better than that.

  • avatar
    Illan

    i recently got a 2010 4cyl malibu LTZ and i drove my dad’s 94 Grand Marquis fo quite a while.

    both statements are true for these cars

    1)Gas Efficient on highway
    2)Horrible on gas on city and stop and go
    3)Cheap to maintain
    4)very pleasant long distance cruisers
    5)both are Fleet machines(good for parts)

    now the panther has:
    a) A cave called a trunk
    b)Front Bench Seat
    c)Parts are easy to find
    d) RWD v8
    e)Pather love
    f)Panther has that awesome turn side light

    The malibu LTZ has:
    a)Factory Bluetooth and ipod integration
    b)Factory remote Start
    C)Good back seat
    d) FWD with a decent 4cyl or a nice v6
    e)LTZ wheels makes it look more high class that what it is
    f)LTZ has LED taillights and fog lights

    hope this helps

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I’ve always been puzzled by the auto makers being stingy on leg room, my guess is it must all be about the fear that they could potentially canabalize other cars in their line up (ie, a customer goes cheap instead of a more expensive SUV)

    The tradeoff of trunk space vs rear leg room is a no brainer. How many times do you really fill up your trunk?

    2-3 inches less trunk space in exchange for rear leg space would be a complete game changer for rear passengers. Somehow, I still think I will be able to get enough groceries in the trunk.

    Most modern 4 door sedans have about the same rear legroom as a Mustang. You have to really step up to expensive sedans to get enough room for an adult to be comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      The legroom theory definately doesn’t apply to GMs SUVs,
      I thought the GMT800 was small, had a 2013 Yukon XL rental that was worse than the 04 Tahoe I used to have.

      However the tall car rental GMC terrain had a ton of rear leg room, although it had a screwy design where rolling down rear windows above 40mph created a vibration affect that threatened to kill me if I didn’t get the window up fast enough.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    I can add a few things that might help you.

    1. the Panther has not very good rear seat leg room for a car of its size

    2. gas mileage on the Panther is 17 and 22 mpg. OK for me where regular gas is $3.30 USD per US gallon

    3. you can get an older, 35k mile Mercury Grand Marquis (or civilian Crown Vic or Lincoln Town Car) and have its oxidized soft parts (tires, belts, hoses, filters and some bushings) replaced to produce the functional equivalent of a (possibly storm damaged) 2011 model Crown Vic. Cost of this, having it done in an indy mechanic’s shop, should be just over half of the price you quote for the 2011 Crown Vic.

    4. a 35K mile Panther will last you, essentially, forever.

    5. there are three types of Panthers.
    a. cop car and taxi Crown Vics that drive well, but ride a bit rough
    b. civilian Crown Vics and Mercs
    c. Lincoln Town Cars offer a little luxo. A few are stretched versions.

    Bottom line. Test drive a Panther to see if its rear seat legroom is adequate for your needs. If it is, consider its somewhat modest mpg. If that works, try to arrange something more in the $8 to 9k USD range as a price for your Panther. After 2003, model year is insignificant. The vehicles are all the same except for their current condition.

    I recommend installing a pair of aftermarket Addco sway bars to improve handling on the non-cop car versions of the Panther.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Addco sways with stock shocks and springs?

      How does that work out?

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        It still wallows, but only once. Continues to ride like a living room couch on the highway. Most important to me, it is no longer scary on the Interstate in traffic at 80+ MPH.

        There is a limited amount that can be done to improve the suspension of a 40 year old design. You reach diminishing returns pretty quick if other bloggers are to be believed.

        The wallowing and spooky high speed handling bothered me a lot. The bloggers seemed to think better sway bars offered the best first step. A couple of mechanic friends agreed. They were right.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I do wonder the difference between a full P71 swap compared to Addco sways on the stock suspension.

          I guess the ultimate setup would be the Addco sway bars, P71 springs, and KYB shocks.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            All true, if you want a cop car ride. I did not. Some bloggers say Bilstein shocks are the way to go.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            Let me put it another way. My wife’s daily driver is a Porsche Carrera (996). Before the aftermarket sway bars, she ‘hated to drive my car’. Afterward, she doesn’t mind driving it at all.

            Some recent quotes: “What ever you spent was well worth it.” “The brakes could be a little better.” “it is a big, heavy car, but once it gets going, it has enough power”.

            Mind you, she is directly comparing my humble $8k Panther with a 172 mph supercar.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The real trick is to just hold out for a HPP car. That gets you the same sway bars as the P71 and a little stiffer springs than base but not nearly as stiff as the p71. It also gets you a quicker ratio, less assisted steering box. Makes a huge difference in how they drive particularly the 2001 and later base cars that didn’t get a rear sway bar unless the air suspension was ordered as a stand alone option.

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    The Nissan Versa sedan and Nissan Sentra sedan have tremendous amounts of rear seat leg room.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Town Car, Brooks Brothers 1818 suits, single malt scotch, do/get something nice for your wife. Do you need a refill?

  • avatar
    cornellier

    Deal with your midlife crisis and get a minivan like a real man.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Cabbie driving a Ford Escape in Manhattan shows me 510,000 miles on his odometer, which pretty much eliminates the last pathetic excuse in my mind for buying a Ford Panther. And that includes the MILF in the back seat, with whom I never stood a chance anyway.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    If it is to be a Panther, I would agree the Town Car is the way to go if you want rear seat leg room. The sad but true story is that GM once made exactly what she could use — Olds 88, Buick LeSabre and Pontiac Bonneville — plenty of room, gas mileage on the highway at 30+, stout and longlived 3800 engine and GM tranny.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Get the Vic all day. I’ve gotten 27 MPG highway out of my Police Interceptor, and the back seat with the partition is livable for anyone less than 6 feet tall. The AC is freezing cold and comes in fast but the partition blocks most of it from reaching the back. Anyone who complains can buy their own car.

    Vics actually drive a lot like a truck. Not a lumbering truck, more like a soft modern Suburban. The police ones drive like an 90′s F350. Noisy, bouncy, stiff.

  • avatar
    slantsixbuzzinaway

    I have owned two 92 panthers, paid $50 bucks cash for each, and did my own repairs, racking up a combined 120k+ miles between the two. Great bang for the buck. Have done many repairs though the engines and transmissions have been great. I would not recommend a 90′s vintage to someone without mechanical inclinations.

    Limited slip with snow tires makes short work of Minnesota winters, but Minnesota winters make short work of old panthers(brake lines in particular)…

    A late panther with low miles.. I do drool over that. But now since I got a 2000 Impala LS for scrap price with bad cv axles and shot rear brakes(which I have replaced), I am likely not going to go back to my panthers, MGM is gone, the CV may get sold.

    The fuel economy of the 3800 series II(Impala) is 28 highway, I usually got 23 highway with the old panthers max(once I got 25mpg).

    Get the Malibu, the fuel savings will be worth it imo.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I really enjoy reading all the Panther Love comments .

    Right near me is a weedy lot with 7 or 8 cars in it , always carefully covered with fitted covers .

    Yesterday as I was riding my vintage Honda CL90 by , three of them had been moved and had the covers off ~ three Panthers all clean and shiny in a row ~ a Taxi , a Radio Car and a Black Limo ~ I suddenly realized I knew the shapes of all those covered cars : PANTHERS ! .

    I don’t know if this is a private collection or they guy is renting them out (very common here) to the Movie Industry .

    -Nate


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